Malaysia: 97-year-old Mahathir loses election, first defeat in more than fifty years

Former Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday (November 19) lost his parliamentary seat. This has likely ended the career of 97-year-old Mohamad who is widely recognised to be Asia’s most enduring politicians.

In a five-way fight in his long-held constituency of Langkawi, Mahathir came in fourth, according to Malaysia’s election commission. 

It was Mahathir’s first electoral defeat in more than half a century.

Of the 177 of 222 parliamentary seats counted, the Election Commission said Anwar’s multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition was leading with 61 seats, while Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional alliance won 60 seats. Ismail’s Barisan coalition got 24.

Mahathir held the Guinness World Record for being the “world’s oldest current prime minister” when he became premier for a second time in 2018 just two months shy of his 93rd birthday.

Visibly slowed by age but still looking healthy, he ran this time around under his own Homeland Fighters’ Party and had laughed off suggestions he should retire, telling reporters before the election he had a “good chance” of winning.

“I’m still standing around and talking to you, I think, making reasonable answers,” Mahathir said.

He added his party would not form any alliances with parties that are led by “crooks or jailbirds” — an apparent reference to the 

United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of jailed former prime minister Najib Razak.

Mahathir has been criticised for ruling the Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003 but is also hailed for helping transform the country from a sleepy backwater into one of the world’s top exporters of high-tech goods.

Mahathir’s long leadership provided political stability and he gained the title of “Father of Modern Malaysia” as he oversaw the construction of highways and industrial parks in the 1980s and 1990s.

(With inputs from agencies)

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